Yes indeed – it’s time to look back & re-visit some of our favourite titles from last year. We realize that there are so many good titles published each year that we have to hold some over to the following year in order to get around to them all. While some of these are currently available in hardcover, many will be featured when they become available in trade paperback in the upcoming months. To that end here are a few selections you may want to consider for yourself, friends or bookclub suggestions. Please note that we have a fine selection of new titles on sale at 30% off during the month of January so drop by & be surprised by what you discover..
Story of the Lost Child/Elena Ferrante (tp) $22.00.
While some of you have read the fourth & final installment of Ferrante’s powerful & addictive series tracing the lives of childhood friends from a tough Naples neighborhood & their enduring but turbulent relationship over the decades, many have yet to discover this alluring reading journey. My Brilliant Friend begins the series followed by The Story of a New Name & Those Who Leave & Those Who Stay. Bet you can’t just read one…
The Door/Magda Szabo (tp) $19.95.
The relationship between the two very different women depicted in this intelligent & morally complex novel from Hungary’s Szabo is every bit as compelling as Ferrante’s work. The relationship between Magda, the sophisticated author with ties to both the Communist authorities & the arts community, with that of her older housekeeper, Emerence, the formidable & secretive force of nature, form an uneasy but evolving alliance that mirrors & draws upon personal connections to Hungary’s turbulent past.
Buried Giant/Kazuo Ishiguro (tp) $21.00
Ishiguro mixes historical fiction, myth & fantasy in his latest novel. 1500 years ago in Britain, the Britons & Saxons were at war as an older couple venture forth to try & find their lost son. While many adventures, armies, battles, ogres & dragons figure in the narrative, it is the mists of memory that suffuses this graceful & extended philosophical exploration of true love.
Little Life/Hanya Yanagihara (tp) $22.00
Yanagihara’s novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker, won the Kirkus Award & is a 2015 NYTs Top 100 Notable. Four college roommates make their way to New York to start their new lives without much support except from each other. As their relationships evolve they are forced to come to terms with the fallout from an early devastating trauma that marks one of them & deeply affects them all.
Fifteen Dogs/Andre Alexis (tp) $17.95.
Winner of this year’s Giller Prize, this beautifully written & powerfully moving book about a wager between Greek gods that proposes if animals were given human consciousness they would be even more miserable than humans. Alexis has crafted a timeless examination of the human condition that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.
Under Majordomo Minor/Patrick de Witt (cl)
De Witt’s main character, Lucien “Lucy” Minor sets off on his modestly heroic quest to work as a minor adjunct at the castle of the local twisted aristocracy. Along the way he haphazardly schemes to win back his former love –Klara, who has definitely moved on to bigger fish. Part Brothers Grimm, part Stefan Zweig & totally de Witt, this tale of charming persistence & amiable ambivalence is a uniquely engaging reading experience.
Heart Goes Last/Margaret Atwood (cl)
$34.00/$30.60. Atwood is up to her old sardonic & inventive self in this delightfully fractured Orwellian take on the perils of downsizing in a shaky economy that could be just around the corner. In the wake of the latest economic collapse, Stan & Charmaine are tired of living in their car & staying ahead of roving gangs. They sign on to become members of the Positron Project in the prison town of Consilience. Full employment & housing come with hidden costs & obligations that aren’t mentioned in the fine print however…
Harmless/James Grainger (tp) $22.00.
Grainger’s debut novel about two former best friends who meet during a summer long weekend explodes into an intense & revealing encounter when both their daughters suddenly go missing. Atom Egoyan has acquired the film rights so read it before the film adaptation hits the screen.
Fates & Furies/Lauren Groff (cl)
Finalist for the 2015 National Book Award as well as being selected on dozens of Best of Year lists, Groff’s ambitious & multi-layered portrait of a “golden” marriage over the span of 24 years is steeped in passion, sex, intelligence, artistic potential, ambition, trust, betrayal, epic determination, emotional brinkmanship, complicated reconciliations & yes, some dark secrets…
Did You Ever Have a Family/Bill Clegg (cl)
Longlisted for the Man Booker prize, Clegg’s novel examining the aftermath of a devastating accident during a small town wedding will leave you reeling. The slow reconfiguration of the lives of the survivors & friends of the deceased during this grieving process offers a remarkable range of finely nuanced & deeply compelling character studies.
Green Road/Anne Enright (cl) $29.95.
Enright is a master chronicler of the many permutations & emotional configurations a traditional family can be made of & her latest raises it to high art. In a small town on Ireland’s west coast the far flung children of Rosaleen Madigan reunite for one last Christmas before she sells the family home & moves on with her life.
First Bad Man/Miranda July (tp) $21.00.
Artist & filmmaker July’s debut novel offers a funny, sexy & intelligent romp about the overturned life of single forty-year-old Cheryl Glickman when her boss’s 21 year-old daughter moves in with her for a brief but challenging & highly charged period.
The Mare/Mary Gaitskill (cl)
Gaitskill’s brilliant novel plumbs the depths of class & race relations with a deft hand. A young girl originally from the Dominican Republic, now residing in Brooklyn becomes part of a “Fresh Air Campaign” to give inner city kids a chance to get out of the city in the summertime. A couple from upstate New York wishing “to make a difference” invite her to spend some time with them & over the course of several summers their relationships undergo many deep changes.
Outline/Rachel Cusk (tp) $19.99.
Shortlisted for this year’s Giller Prize as well as being selected by both the Globe & NYTs Top 100 of 2016, this innovative biographical novel takes the form of ten conversations between a writer & her students as they participate in a writing workshop during a sweltering summer in Athens.
Unbecoming/Rebecca Scherm (tp) $21.00.
Fans of Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl & Donna Tartt will want to check out this sublime psychological suspense from talented debut novelist Rebecca Scherm. Grace, a young woman from the small town of Garland, Tennessee is re-inventing herself as “Julie” in a small antiques shop on the outskirts of Paris. She has good reason for this new start but will her skillful deceptions be enough to keep her past from catching up to her in a very bad way?
H is For Hawk/Helen Macdonald (cl)
MacDonald’s mix of personal memoir, literary biography & a grieving process that chronicles the remarkable training of her pet hawk is a beautifully written & totally unique reading experience.
Folded Clock/Heidi Julavits (cl)
Essay readers rejoice! When Julavits rediscovers her childhood diaries she sets off on extended discourses on time, memory, self, family, betrayal, art & ambition amongst other stops along the way. Her humour & critical cultural observations on life’s daily minutiae informs this exceptionally intelligent & very entertaining collection.
Sixty/Ian Brown (cl)
Brown’s diary covering his sundry preoccupations & anxieties as he faces the dawn of his sixth decade pretty much covers all the bases. From family, work, finances & recreation, to physical, mental & emotional health, he tells it all in his very personable, honest, insightful & adroitly mordant & humorous manner.
Between the World & Me/Ta-Nehisi Coates (cl)
Coates’ cautionary letter to his teenaged son explaining his experience & belief that racial injustice & discrimination is a permanent state of affairs that is impervious to individual efforts to establish equality & respect for minority rights is as an open societal challenge to face pervasive systemic racism head on.
Ghettoside/Jill Leovy (tp) $21.00.
In some respects, this investigative journalist’s expose of the murder of a teenaged boy in a L.A. neighbourhood underlines Coates’s observations & experiences of a marginalized community & how society works to keep these communities isolated & outside of mainstream opportunities & resources for advancement.
Prison Book Club/Ann Walmsley (cl)
If you’ve always thought that belonging to a bookclub does not have any intrinsic benefit in appreciating or understanding the books you’ve read outside of your own private enjoyment, this book will certainly have you rethink this assumption. Walmsley’s own story in coming to terms with a brutal assault a few years before she was asked to volunteer in leading a prison bookclub is but one thread in a host of topics of discussion regarding the value of self-disclosure & communication leading to personal growth & opportunities for understanding in an isolating & alienating prison system.
Losing Our Voice/Alain Saulnier (tp) $26.99.
A former Radio Canada news director, Saulnier’s newly translated expose of his battles with successive governments & CBC presidents over political interference, journalistic integrity & continuing rounds of budget cuts makes for fascinating & sobering reading. Will the new Federal Liberal Government show any respect for our beleaguered Pubic broadcaster or will it be the same old saga of a slow death by budget cuts, attrition & narrow, self-serving political agendas?
Out On the Wire/Jessica Abel (tp) $24.00.
In contrast, this Library Journal Best Book of 2015, highlights some surprising strengths & innovations from American Public Radio. This is an illustrated graphic reproduction of the trade secrets of today’s leading creators of popular U.S. radio shows, audio documentaries & podcasts. Abel is one of the millions of avid listeners of various radio shows & podcasts & here she lets us see how these talented writers & producers create their magic. Who says radio is dead…
Men of Action/Howard Akler (tp) $14.95.
This compact elegiac meditation focusing on Akler’s relationship to his father & family manages to cover a great deal of ground in a poetic tour de force. The portrayal of the shifting & unpredictable vagaries of consciousness & how the writing process attempts to glimpse our intimate lives & connections is masterfully accomplished.
NeuroTribes/Steve Silberman (cl)
Winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Non-Fiction Prize, Silberman’s illuminating secret history of autism & the reluctant, slow acknowledgement of the wide range of neuro diversity by mental health professionals goes a long way in explaining why there appeared to be a huge increase in the diagnosis of autism in recent years. Acknowledging, understanding & accommodating cognitive differences is a huge & significant societal challenge this book elegantly & poignantly addresses.
Young Adult Novels.
Nimona/Noelle Stevenson (tp) $15.99.
Subversive & irreverent graphic novel from award winning web comic writer Stevenson was a National Book Award finalist. Young shapeshifter Nimona joins forces with villainous Lord Ballister Blackheart to take down the deceptively virtuous Sir Ambrosious Goldenloin & his cronies at the Institution of Law Enforcement & Heroics. Dragons, science, symbolism, treachery & god times all around.
Nest/Kenneth Oppel (cl)
This illustrated story for young adults takes a decidedly scary tour of ghostly realms. When a young boy who is anxious about the health of his sick brother calls upon the angels to help heal him, the intervention he receives poses a challenge that puts him to a deadly test.
Truth Commission/Susan Juby (cl)
Three friends, Normandy, Dusk & Neil call themselves the “Truth Commission” & pride themselves on their investigative skills. When Normandy’s older sister, Keira returns from college under mysterious circumstances, Normandy is forced to learn some hard truths about respect for other people’s privacy. Humorous, intelligent & heartfelt, Juby is an insightful chronicler of youthful learning curves & life lessons.
Goodbye Stranger/Rebecca Stead (cl)
Newberry Medal Award winner Rebecca Stead takes on multiple points of view exploring the bonds & challenges of friendship, love & change through the eyes of some memorable & well drawn characters. Certainly not your average looming adulthood tale.
Girl Defective/Simonne Howell (tp) $12.99.
This young adult tale from Australia explores the lives of a divergent group of kids during one remarkable summer as they grow up around music, mystery & the big topics of love, death, grief & romance.